Is being trans a social fad among teenagers?

Sabine Hossenfelder • Apr 29, 2023 • Should transgender teens transition? This rather personal question occupies a prominent place in the American culture war. One the one side you have people claiming that it’s a socially contagious fad among the brainwashed woke who want to mutilate your innocent children. On the other side there are those saying that it’s saving the lives of minorities who’ve been forced to stay in the closet for too long. And then there are normal people, like you and I, who think both sides are crazy and could someone please summarise the facts in simple words, which is what I’m here for. At 7:25 the number which I say (25 million) referred only to the age group 12-17, whereas the study that I previously talked about was for the age group 6-17. The total number of children age 6-17 is approximately 50 million, hence the correction on the screen. Sorry for the confusion!

(Contributed by Hanz Bolen, H.W., M.)

Going against the charismatic leader model towards a collective management

[Prosperos leadership: Please take note!]

Lily Janiak 

April 25, 2023 Updated: April 27, 2023 (

Members of the Cutting Ball Theater collective in San Francisco on April 13. The company transitioned into being a nonhierarchical structure after the departure of its executive artistic director last June.Photo: Benjamin Fanjoy/Special to The Chronicle

When Ariel Craft left her role as Cutting Ball Theater executive artistic director last June, the remaining team members knew they didn’t want to return to business as usual, launching a search to find a replacement visionary who could become the new face of the organization.

“Ariel’s job was the job of three people,” Marketing Director Estela Hernandez told The Chronicle in a group interview. “She was superwoman.” 

Patron Services Director Sharisse Taylor recalled getting emails from Craft at midnight and then seeing her boss at the theater at 9 the next morning. The problem wasn’t Craft; it was the structure. 

“We just realized that wasn’t sustainable or ethical,” Hernandez said. 

Ariel Craft left her position as executive artistic director of Cutting Ball Theater last year. “Ariel’s job was the job of three people,” the theater’s marketing director, Estela Hernandez, said, so the staff proposed to form a collective instead of getting a new leader.Photo: Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle 2017

And the charismatic-leader model wasn’t always good for the theater either, said Operations and Finance Director Jess Koehn, who uses gender-neutral pronouns. “When they leave, people leave with them,” Koehn explained, citing donors, board members and journalists whose interest waned when Craft departed.

So rather than launch a standard nationwide search, the remaining staffers went to their board with a proposition: They’d form a collective, each member equally answerable to the board and each paid the same hourly wage. They’d make decisions together, instead of from the top down, and everyone would have access to the organizational budget. 

Collective members work at Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco on April 13. The Tenderloin-based theater uses a leadership model that rotates positions to prevent toxic workplace culture and minimize stress on employees.Photo: Benjamin Fanjoy/Special to The Chronicle

The one role responsible for choosing plays, the curation director, would be a two-year, term-limited position, the better to get a wider, more representative range of voices onstage.

“No one person can reflect everything our community needs,” said the new occupant of that job, Chris Steele.

The board was initially reluctant to shift the company’s whole paradigm. But one convincing argument, Taylor recalled, was, “We are already doing this work without the financial compensation and without the recognition for our contribution.”

Indeed, even before Craft left, when she was on maternity leave, the group, which now numbers seven, naturally started working as a collective. They did check-ins each morning, different departments pitching in to help each other, no one above anyone else. 

Marketing Director Estela Hernandez (left) and Community and Education Director Cathryn Cooper work on a computer at Cutting Ball Theater.Photo: Benjamin Fanjoy/Special to The Chronicle

Another persuasive point was the high turnover in the nonprofit sector, especially in nonmanagement positions.

“Theater is not the career you go into to make Bay Area wages,” Taylor said. The group told the board, “If you want to keep us, we need to be able to live,” she recalled.

Eventually, the board approved their plan, dividing up the premium that had gone to Craft into higher hourly wages for everyone. Community and Education Director Cathryn Cooper said that as a result, she now makes more than her industry peers. 

While Craft told The Chronicle she supports the collective’s model, she declined to comment further.

Stephanie Prentice in Marin Theatre Company’s “Justice: A New Musical.” Prentice is one of two new co-leaders at TheatreFirst.Photo: Kevin Berne/Marin Theatre Company

Many other local theaters use nonhierarchical models. The San Francisco Mime Troupe has been a collective for decades, and more recently many other theaters, such as Z Space, have adopted shared or distributive leadership structures. 

Nor is Cutting Ball the only theater to establish term limits, an idea that got a boost from 2020’s widely circulated “We See You, White American Theatre” document. One of its demands was for a term limit of 20 years for executive leaders, pointing up just how entrenched leaders could become before the pandemic seemed to accelerate a wave of departures. 

Berkeley’s TheatreFirst was the region’s first to deploy term limits, when Jon Tracy, who is white, announced in 2020 that he was stepping down from his leadership role in order to create a pipeline for new leaders of color. Brendan Simon took the reins for the first three-year term, and now Victoria Evans Erville and Stephanie Prentice have taken over as co-leaders. 

In the traditional, hierarchical model, Erville said, an overburdened leader might be tempted to lean on artistic crutches, which can amount to gatekeeping by another name. 

“Artistic directors using the same actors for four seasons — you fall in love with them, you trust them, so you just keep casting them. It’s one less thing to think about,” she said. “But because you don’t have another person’s perspective, you find yourself in a box without even knowing it.”

Curation Director Chris Steele at Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco. Under the theater’s new model, this position is a two-year, term-limited position.Photo: Benjamin Fanjoy/Special to The Chronicle

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a major funder of Bay Area theaters, also uses term limits for its program officers. Jessica Mele, who’s about to term out of her role there, explains the benefit similarly. A grantee “didn’t have to know a program officer in the ’70s in order to get money from them.”

But if term limits can force a theater to constantly refresh itself, they might pose other logistical hurdles. One season of plays, for instance, is often the product of years of commissioning and planning — longer than a single leader’s term.  

Both TheatreFirst and Cutting Ball plan to smooth breaks in continuity by moving departing leaders to their boards rather than having them leave the organizations entirely. Simon’s already made that shift at TheatreFirst.

“There will be a lineage of new projects that gets passed on,” Steele said, adding, “one of my first season’s shows is a commission Ariel shepherded. It’s all a collaboration.”

Levon Degennaro walks past a “Let’s Get Weird” sign at Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco on April 13. The Tenderloin theater rotates leadership positions to improve workplace culture and minimize stress on workers.Photo: Benjamin Fanjoy/Special to The Chronicle

Communication and efficiency could also be challenges; making decisions and getting things done would seem to be simpler, at least, when one person issues an edict. But the Cutting Ball team said that’s not necessarily the case. 

“Inevitably, lots of other people then have to pick up the pieces further down the line, whereas in this model, everyone’s on the same page from the beginning,” said Production Director Emma Stirling.

Thus far, theater workers seem excited to work in such an environment.

“I applied for this position because they presented themselves as a collective,” said new Development Director Lorraine VanRod.

Still, Hernandez acknowledged that explaining the company’s practices to the outside world could be an uphill battle.

“We want people to be excited about Cutting Ball — not just the charismatic leader that’s here for a short period of time,” said Koehn.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to bleed for our art; we want to make art, and we want to be happy and compensated,” said Cooper, pointing out that Cutting Ball is an experimental theater company. 

Now the experimenting is happening offstage as well as on.

Reach Lily Janiak:

  • Follow:Lily JaniakLily Janiak joined the San Francisco Chronicle as theater critic in May 2016. Previously, her writing appeared in Theatre Bay Area, American Theatre, SF Weekly, the Village Voice and HowlRound. She holds a BA in theater studies from Yale and an MA in drama from San Francisco State.

British public support for monarchy at historic low, poll reveals

On eve of king’s coronation, survey shows only three in 10 Britons think monarchy is ‘very important’

Amelia Hill

@byameliahillFri 28 Apr 2023 01.18 EDT (

Only three in 10 Britons think the monarchy is “very important”, the lowest proportion on record, a poll shows as the king’s coronation approaches.

A survey by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) shows public support for the monarchy has fallen to a historic low. A total of 45% of respondents said either it should be abolished, was not at all important or not very important.

In 2022, the year of the late queen’s platinum jubilee, 35% of respondents gave one of the same three answers. Overall, answers in 2023 displayed a drop in support for the monarchy to roughly the levels last seen in 2021.

The data, based on 6,638 interviews, builds on 40 years of data collected for the annual British Social Attitudes survey. It shows the number of people who say the monarchy is “very important” has fallen to 29%, from 38% in 2022.

This reflects a long-term trend of declining support for the monarchy, with the new research showing the number of those answering “very important” at the lowest level since data collection began in 1983.

But the return to 2021 levels is in keeping with the bump in popularity the Windsors tend to receive during showpiece events such as jubilees, weddings or births, NatCen noted.skip past newsletter promotion

Guy Goodwin, the chief executive of NatCen, said: “Whilst we are observing a downward trend in support for the monarchy, it is clear from the data that important national events and celebrations, such as jubilees, marriages and births, have a clear and positive effect on society’s views towards the monarchy.

“Throughout the 2010s, we saw an increase in support for Britain to continue to have a monarchy, which coincided with the marriage of HRH the Prince of Wales, and the queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.”

A total of 26% of people surveyed said the monarchy was “quite important”, up two percentage points on 2021. But 20% said it was “not very important”, also up two points since 2021. A quarter of those questioned said the monarchy was “not at all important/should be abolished”, a proportion that has remained unchanged since 2021.

Goodwin said it was an additional concern that just 12% of 18- to 34-year-olds view the monarchy as “very important”, compared with 42% of those aged 55 and older. He said: “The challenge going forward will be for the monarchy to deliver its relevance and appeal to a younger generation to maintain this support.”

The Boomarang Nebula

This image is of the Boomarang Nebula, located 5,000 light years from earth in the constellation Centaurus. The nebula’s temperature is measured at 1 degree above absolute zero making it the coolest natural place currently known in the Universe. Most of outer space is measured at 3 degrees above absolute zero, due to the cosmic microwave background. It is the only naturally occurring object found so far that has a temperature lower than the background radiation.

Jeffrey Mishlove and the New Thinking Allowed Foundation

The rise of boring architecture — and the case for radically human buildings

1,798,119 views | Thomas Heatherwick • TED2022

Where did all the lumps and bumps on buildings go? When did city architecture become so … dull? Here to talk about why cities need inspiring architecture, designer Thomas Heatherwick offers a path out of the doldrums of urban monotony — and a vision of cities filled with soulful buildings that people cherish for centuries.

About the speaker

Thomas Heatherwick

DesignerSee speaker profile

Thomas Heatherwick brings together design, architecture and urban planning to create soulful and interesting places that spark emotion and celebrate complexity.

The Myth of Objective Data

When we view objectivity and subjectivity as opposites rather than complements, we distort the empirical realities of data collection.

(By: Melanie Feinberg


The notion that human judgment pollutes scientific attempts to understand natural phenomena as they really are may seem like a stable and uncontroversial value. However, as Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison have established, objectivity is a fairly recent historical development.

This article is adapted from Melanie Feinberg’s book “Everyday Adventures With Unruly Data

In Daston and Galison’s account, which focuses on scientific visualization, objectivity arose in the 19th century, congruent with the development of photography. Before photography, scientific illustration attempted to portray an ideal exemplar rather than an actually existing specimen. In other words, instead of drawing a realistic portrait of an individual fruit fly — which has unique, idiosyncratic characteristics — an 18th-century scientific illustrator drew an ideal fruit fly. This ideal representation would better portray average fruit fly characteristics, even as no actual fruit fly is ever perfectly average.

With the advent of photography, drawings of ideal types began to lose favor. The machinic eye of the lens was seen as enabling nature to speak for itself, providing access to a truer, more objective reality than the human eye of the illustrator. Daston and Galison emphasize, however, that this initial confidence in the pure eye of the machine was swiftly undermined. Scientists soon realized that photographic devices introduce their own distortions into the images that they produce, and that no eye provides an unmediated view onto nature. From the perspective of scientific visualization, the idea that machines allow us to see true has long been outmoded. In everyday discourse, however, there is a continuing tendency to characterize the objective as that which speaks for itself without the interference of human perception, interpretation, judgment, and so on.

The idea that machines allow us to see true has long been outmoded.

This everyday definition of objectivity particularly affects our understanding of data collection. If in our daily lives we tend to overlook the diverse, situationally textured sense-making actions that information seekers, conversation listeners, and other recipients of communicative acts perform to make automated information systems function, we are even less likely to acknowledge and value the interpretive work of data collectors, even as these actions create the conditions of possibility upon which data analysis can operate.

Our propensity to lose track of the diverse set of interpretive judgments packed into every instance of data collection, and accordingly to diminish the socially situated conditions in which data is created, extends even where data collection appears tightly controlled. Indeed, the interpretive flexibility that pervades data collection has been especially well described in the sciences. Scholars have meticulously documented the sociotechnical processes by which the context of observation is variously assumed, accounted for, forgotten, and reconstructed in the collection, aggregation, and use of scientific data.

To summarize what such studies show, here’s a brief scenario. Let’s imagine that we’re a team of scientific researchers conducting a Movement Census project. To determine how much the residents in our area move every day, we’re collecting step counts and distance traveled from a diverse set of smartphone users over a period of two weeks. We know that different phones produce different results, so we make sure to document the hardware and software for each study participant. We also know that gaits vary, so we instruct participants to select from three gait styles: smooth, bouncy, and semi-bouncy. Subsequently, we develop a normalization function to equate data for different devices and gaits. Our function performs pretty well: It can account for 80 percent of the variance between phones. We only have resources to test our function on three popular models of Android phones, but the majority of smartphone users have Android phones. Of course, we’ll summarize these limitations in any academic publication that arises from our analysis. We’re responsible scientists.

Over time, however, we disregard our pledge. We gradually forget that our attempt to account for variation between devices and gaits was only partial, not complete. Moreover, we do not fully comprehend the particularities and qualifications that inhere within our dataset. It’s entirely likely, for instance, that some participants had difficulty selecting a single gait style (bouncy or semi-bouncy?) but we, the researchers, didn’t provide a way to select multiple styles or to indicate uncertainty in a selection. Furthermore, our ideas about gait didn’t account for people with physical disabilities or infirmities, who might move differently or use different kinds of prosthetics or supports. Indeed, I could go on and on about the tremendous array of decisions that our Movement Census team made in shaping this very particular dataset, including, of course, the initial idea that step counts are a good proxy for movement. In summary, the quantitative data of step counts arises from a complex and intricate array of interpretive decisions, from the way that we designed our study to the individual actions of the contributing participants. Empirical studies of science invariably show similar conclusions.

The Movement Census scenario represents typical practice, not bad science. The problem, if there is one, does not lie with sloppy data collectors; it lies with our continued reliance on two-cultures dichotomies, in which objectivity and subjectivity can be neatly separated and human messiness can somehow be avoided in data collection performed by humans (or with automated devices created by humans). When we imagine that datasets of properties like step counts speak for themselves, we negate the responsibility we hold for determining which properties will be expressed as data, in what form, and with what parameters.

Nonetheless, despite the undeniably consistent picture that we see across studies of scientific data collection, the desire to remove the human from the data in order to enhance objectivity remains very strong. Invariably, it seems like the ethical move.

Despite the undeniably consistent picture that we see across studies of scientific data collection, the desire to remove the human from the data in order to enhance objectivity remains very strong.

Changing a culture is a major undertaking, and a data culture is no exception. But thinking of these issues as cultural in the first place can help to open the imagination. When I teach information organization to master’s students, the first project that I set them is to design a descriptive schema: a set of specifications for generating data about some group of things. They can choose to describe whatever they want — coffee beans, computer programming languages, or mythological beasts; it doesn’t matter. Initially, everyone thinks this project is beneath their capabilities: a rote task. When I explain that the whole point is to treat the description of landscape paintings or laptop computers as an open design problem rather than a reification of convention, my students are dubious. How else would we describe science fiction movies if not in the way that Netflix describes them? How else would we describe pain medication if not in the way that pharmacies describe it?

The students think that data is a matter of describing things as they are, and that there is no art to it and certainly no fashion. They very much want to let things speak for themselves when they approach a project like designing a schema to describe a set of things. What my students paradoxically fail to realize, in their zeal to be responsible, is that describing things by certain characteristics rather than others merely because those characteristics are countable is a profoundly subjective decision.

I remember vividly one especially conscientious student who designed a schema for describing socks. To keep her data as objective as possible, she specified only quantitatively measurable attributes, such as thickness in millimeters, circumference of the ankle opening, and precise composition of materials. She avoided anything that had the appearance of human judgment, such as what the socks might feel like on human skin, what outfits they might complement, or their stylishness. But was her data objective? Not at all. The circumference of the ankle opening? That’s one of the most subjective data elements I could have possibly imagined. What a useless bit of data! It was selected solely because the data creator had a personal preference for the appearance of objectivity. When we view objectivity and subjectivity as opposites rather than complements, this is the kind of trap we find ourselves falling into.

This two-cultures thinking, moreover, distorts the empirical realities of data collection, the challenging work of forcing unruly phenomena to speak in clean, distinct, ideally quantitative phrases. It is likely, for instance, that the designer of the sock schema considered the actual measuring of a sock’s ankle opening to be unskilled drudgery, something anyone could do. But even the bare mechanics of measuring a floppy circle are tricky. And there are ontological complexities also. Are we measuring socks as unique material items (for every sock in the world, new or worn, a measurement) or are we measuring socks as a class of equivalent copies (one measurement for a set of equivalent socks, e.g., a particular brand and type)? Even sock measuring is not a mindless task.

“This project is much harder than you think,” I caution my students before they begin designing their schemas. “Most of you will be in despair at some point. In fact, this is how you will know if you are proceeding in the right way: if you suddenly realize that you have no idea what you are doing.” Everyone laughs. They humor me. After all, I am the one with the power; I am grading them.

If I am lucky, though, it really does happen as I theatrically foretell. Everyone feels despair. This despair is a little bit magical. I treasure it! It’s the despair of the unknown possibility. This despair helps my students recognize an apparently banal assignment as a real design situation. It teaches them that data is created, not found; and that creating it well demands humanity, rather than objectivity.

Melanie Feinberg is Associate Professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of “Everyday Adventures With Unruly Data,” from which this article is adapted.